Sunday, 27 October 2013

Oh. That storm.

Picture this, if you will.

It's the evening that the clocks go forward, back, forward, spring forward fall back back. E has slept in in the morning, napped later and is still merrily watching telly 90 minutes later than normal meltdown time. We anticipate great things for the following morning and stay up a little later than normal.


Just after 5am this morning, circa 90 minutes earlier that 'normal' wake up time, taking into the account the clock changes, a little face appears at the door. No milk or talk of bedtime is convincing this one she's going back to bed. Infact she's like a Duracell bunny who's eaten 3 sherbet dipdabs for breakfast. Marvellous.

The consequence of this was that by the time the clock said 8am the morning had felt exceedingly long and my brain was already confused as to what was actually going on. Activities were needed. Here follows a huge photo dump. 

Activity 1: Bake off

Between daddy and daughter. Daddy is the official baker in this household. E's first experience of baking, and in nothing but a nappy, and daddy still in his pjs. And the biscuits are delicious. Aaaaaaand they cleaned up after themselves.

Don't forget your hired help to clean up your biscuit crumbs! 

Activity 2: Autumn walk

In light of the fact that it was sunny, despite the weather forecast I decided that we needed to get out a) because E had new shoes to test drive and b) because it's highly unlikely we'll be going anywhere in the storm tomorrow. So we popped down to the boating lake and collected leaves and acorns, shouted at the ducks and explored their almost empty park. I couldn't quite fathom why on such a lovely day the park was so empty. It seemed that the rest of town knew what was about to happen. Hats and coats and camera and bag of acorns are dumped on a bench while I'm being pulled down slides that my backside doesn't fit on and then out of nowhere a precursor for tomorrow appears. The sky turns black, the winds pick up to the point where E can't stand up and it buckets down. Marvellous. 

And by the time we got home, it was blissfully sunny again.

Oh. One for sorrow. Sigh.

Our afternoon was, thankfully, non eventful and normal service has resumed.

Stay safe in the adverse weather folks and see you on the other side! 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

21 weeks

Pregnancy is just ticking along really, and there is very little to report.

I'll kick back and enjoy that.

However, I wanted to share the weekly bump and just take 30 seconds to rave about my new cardigan. I'd never heard of Crave Maternity until recently, but I stumbled across their sale online in the week and bagged myself the one item of clothing I was really missing now that the weather is cold and blustery: A chunky knit cardigan. This little beauty was in the sale for £16 down from £79 and is soft, and chunky and warm and divine. There's no other way to describe it. I'm not sure my bank balance would ever have afforded me a £79 cardigan, especially without seeing it in the flesh first, but for £16 I am the happiest and warmest pregnant lady on the planet right now and can assure you it's worth much more than what I paid. So thank you, Crave.

I was delighted to see that they're a company based just up the road in Leicestershire too... I love to support local business...

A good weekend for warm bumps.

The family you choose

Yesterday would have been my mum's 60th birthday. I spent most of the day feeling somewhat flat about the whole thing. She should have spent the day hanging out with her granddaughter and drinking champagne. Instead, E and I were hanging out at home and she didn't really understand why I was upset. It's fair enough.

Anyhow, although my biological family is aging and slowly depleting, I did spend some of my day reflecting on the ways in which my family has grown over the last few years as I looked over photographs of Dorothy's baptism last weekend.

Amazing cake from Dorothy's other Godmother
Follow her! @_CupKate

Of course I now have a wonderfully devoted husband and a delightful daughter. And the three of us are set to become four. I still have a few relatives left on my side of the family, and D's family is huge in comparison. But there are some other people, who while not official on paper are also part of my wider family and I am incredibly grateful for them.

They come in the form of my two best girl friends. They are E's Godmothers, and I am honoured enough to be a Godmother to two of their children too. And thankfully, I also approve of think the world of their husbands, and their husbands are incredibly good friends with my husband. Family that all love each other! Hurrah!

One of them is like my older sister. We spend more time shouting at each other, falling out and making up than we do talking (OK, that's an over exaggeration...) but she's absolutely irreplaceable. The other started as a colleague when I was an NQT and then she was made redundant and my contract wasn't renewed we moved in opposite directions but kept in touch and now a day doesn't go by when we don't speak. Thank god for these two girls for keeping me sane and standing by me when things have been tough.

And although both of them live as pretty much as south as you can get and we're positively central here in the East Midlands, we plan months ahead to make sure we get together in some shape of form. I think that's testament to excellent friendships.

E's responsibles - photo courtesy of P. Rogers

My family might not be all that conventional; in fact it's anything but...

I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

A step forward

So here we are. 20 weeks. Half way. 

This is insanity.

I was writing a guest post the other day, which is due to be published next week about preparing for a baby, and I suddenly realised how much there was to do and it has given me a kick into doing something for this one's arrival which is much closer than it sounds!

The other weekend we found ourselves in IKEA buying ourselves a new wardrobe. This weekend, D enlisted help from a friend and assembled it. Why is this significant? Well, D's clothes currently live in a chest of drawers in the spare room, which is about to become the kids' room. So those drawers needed vacating - pronto! This baby has somewhere to sleep and somewhere to keep their clothes... Progress. Now to start boxing some stuff up that we don't need out and thinking about doing some decorating. I'm still very much thinking about that! 

In other news... 

I had my 20 weeks scan today. Baby is happy, healthy, a little big for gestation. And tall. Just like it's sister was. I went on my own, which was a little odd, but I'm pleased to report that nosiness didn't get the better of me and I stayed firmly Team Yellow. Time to buy some white baby grows! I bought the wool for a baby blanket this week... I fear that my list of Christmas makes will be getting in the way of that for some time.

This week has definitely been the week of growing: I'm starting to feel HUGE and I'm feeling baby much higher up now. I've had the appetite of a king and some of the nasties of pregnancy that I'd managed to escape or at least deal with up until now have started to become a little more problematic. And of course the pharmacist wont give you anything. Sigh.

Anyway, I'm making a shopping list for the kids' new room and pinning like a mad woman on Pinterest. That'll satisfy me for now.

Less than 20 weeks to go...

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Review: Ozeri Green Earth frying pan

One of my fondest memories and most wonderful occasions of the year growing up was Shrove Tuesday... My mum had a small frying pan that was to be used exclusively for pancakes, and she swore by it. My mum made an excellent pancake, flipped, tossed and scoffed. I inherited this pan when mum passed away and I confess that it was no longer used exclusively for pancakes. Students don't wash up often enough or have the foresight to tell their housemates/boyfriends that they own a pan exclusively for pancakes. I carried on using that little pan but unfortunately it no longer made for a good pancake and it ended its worldly life earlier this year. 

So, I was over the moon when I was offered the opportunity to review the Ozeri Green Earth frying pan which just so happened to be the size of my old pancake pan, 20cm/8"... I just had to hope it made a good pancake.

First impressions of this little pan were good. I'm no pan expert, but it's weighty, without being so heavy you struggle to pick it up one handed, and I consider weightiness to be a good feature in a pan. The handle, which is silicon coated, has a slight curve to it, which makes it comfortable to hold, and it seems to be really well secured to the pan (this was my husband's first observation too - what a man!). The pan comes in an attractive lime green colour (the only colour available I believe) and is pleasing on the eye. So far so good.

Ozeri provide clear instructions on how to care for your pan, including seasoning and washing the pan, so without further a do I followed the instructions, which were written in simple english, gave it a good rub with olive oil and took a couple of minutes to take in the rest of the 'bumpf' as I call it. The pan is oven and induction stove friendly, a versatile piece of kit! 

The Green Earth Pan is greblon coated.  This means that the ceramic coating is not only non stick and super durable but it's also eco-friendly, releasing no nasties into the atmosphere while being cooked with. I must admit that I wasn't aware that any pan could be releasing nasties while cooking, but I guess there's something a teeny bit altruistic about cooking greener. At least there is in my head. It also boasts a textured surface which has thee functions; stops food from sticking, makes it easier to clean and helps create air pockets which distributes the heat under the food to improve cooking. Big claims. 

Aesthetics and weightiness aside, the proof of a good pan MUST be in the cooking, so I decided that there was only one thing for it. Pancakes. Cooking a pancake would test it's non-stick coating and it's claims to distribute heat underneath the food evenly. I did nothing different in my preparation of the batter or the pan than usual and I can only report good things. With virtually no oil in the pan, the pancakes curled away from the edge of their own doing as they cooked, allowing me to flip them with ease with no need to ease them from the sides. There were no crispy edges that got stuck and burned meaning that the pan needed to be cleaned before the next ladle of batter went in. The colour of the pancakes were even, and the textured nature of the surface of the pan left the pancake with an attractive mottled pattern - not particularly important, but quite cool none the less! They cooked quickly and the whole experience was pain free... And D will tell you that my old pan had left me in several pancake related meltdowns. As I served dinner, my first remark to my D was "this is a really good pan. I really like it". First impressions count for something. This pan is clearly excellent for pancake making but great for eggs or bacon for a family of three... That's my weekend breakfast sorted! 

I guess the other proof of a good pan is it's longevity. How long does it remain non-stick? How long does the coating last? How long until the handle drops off? Well, time will tell, I suppose, but I think a good quality piece of kitchenwear performs from its very first use. 

There were only two minor snagging points for me. Firstly, the end of the handle closest to the pan did start to get quite hot to the touch while I was cooking. I suspect that this is the downside of using a smaller pan however, as obviously the handle is closer to the heat source than with a slightly larger pan. Just worth bearing in my mind when in use, but I doubt this is a problem exclusive to this pan. Secondly, while I love the fresh lime green colour, my kitchen is adored with blue, blue and more blue and I would love this pan even more if it came in a selection of funky colours, although I appreciate that the colour of the pan fits beautifully with Green Earth, eco friendly branding.

The Ozeri Green Earth Pan (20cm/8") has an RRP of £39.95 although it is currently available on Amazon UK for £24.95*. Having never bought a pan myself as all of ours were inherited or wedding gifts, I did a little research into comparative pans. £40 seems reasonably average and certainly not unreasonable, and it's current price strikes me as a really good deal. 

So, this for me is a 5 star pan and a superb piece of kitchenwear. While I currently have no need for bigger pans, I wouldn't hestitate in splashing out on the larger pans in the range if I needed them in the future and would 100% wholeheartedly recommend these to a friend. Thank you, Ozeri, my mum would be thrilled with this replacement for her Shrove Tuesday shenanigans! 

Moderna Housewares kindly supplied the above product for free for the purpose of review, however all opinions are my own and completely uninfluenced by any other party. *Prices correct as of 15/10/2013.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Born to read

It's no secret that by day, I'm a teacher. I teach Music in a large secondary school, but I'm sure any parent will agree that a teacher teaches so much more than just their subject specialism. We are mentors, listeners, teachers of literacy and numeracy, teachers of key life skills, of morals, of real life.

Now, I feel happiest when my class are making a lot of noise. And I love my subject because actually, so much of the time it doesn't matter if you can't speak very good English, or if your handwriting is spidery because none of that stops you making music. Your levels of literacy wont stop you having an emotional or creative response to what you hear or what you play. Many of our "weaker" students and EAL students do very well in subjects like mine because so much of what you assess them on is based on practical work. And we have fun. And we do make a lot of noise.

But I do have a duty to support literacy in my subject. We learn key words, we boost vocabulary, often we talk about where words come from. And we do written work, particularly evaluation as that's a key level 5 skill at Key Stage 3. And I'm only too aware of the huge gaps in students' writing and reading levels. I'm amazed at the poor standards some children arrive from Primary school with. And so very, very often, it's not their fault. And it's not despite the hard work of their teachers at their primary school either. They just haven't had the best start to their education - which begins at home from day dot - for all manner of reasons. Maybe it's financial, maybe they have been brought up in households that simply don't value education the way I do, it doesn't matter. By the time they arrive with us in Year 7, sometimes the gap for some is just far too big to close and we fight to get them the best skills set we can, but the reality is that children are still leaving secondary school unable to read and write properly. And I'm not just talking getting the apostrophe in the wrong place; this BMus (Hons) PGCE-er over here still gets that wrong (and I'm by no means proud of that). I mean can't spell the basics, can't read important documentation relating to their lives... With this is mind, I'm signed up to support Save The Children's campaign Born to Read and hope that posts like this might just help raise the awareness of a really significant problem. Over the next months and years Born to Read will provide 7,000 more reading helpers for 23,000 pupils in schools in deprived areas across the country, working in partnership with Beanstalk – an organisation with 40 years’ experience in helping children learn to read. They will also be supporting parents to help develop their children’s reading skills at home.

You can help raise awareness too. Why not share this post with the hashtags #borntoread and #educationmatters or sign up to become a changemaker yourself? 

I made a pledge when E was born. I will NEVER say no when she asks for a book. Never say no when she wants to read, never say no to a library trip, never say no for a request for a new read in the bookshop, irrespective of cost or time. Because I truly believe that being able to read opens doors, and the sooner we ingrain that attitude on our children, the more they will read, the more they will succeed. 

Last week I took E to the library for the first time and I could already see the fruits of our labours falling into place. Picking up books from the Meg & Mog and Hairy Maclary series that we don't own at home, but knowing who they are because we have read others. At bed time she asks for "book" before she settles down for the night. Most of the time it's books scattered across our sitting room and not toys. Reading is just part of everyday. I feel satisfied we're getting it right and I pray that her love for reading stays this strong. Aside from anything else it's a great way of spending time together, but I know that every time she picks up a book it's doing the tiniest little bit to help her improve her chances at school, her GCSE results, her future prospects.

Stuck for reading ideas? It's the end of Children's Book Week, so I thought I'd share our top 10 with you, in no particular order...

  • Noisy Farm - Axel Scheffler
  • E & Daisy's Big Day Out (a personalised book from a friend, and a big clue about who E might really be!)
  • Turn it up, Doris! - Sam Lloyd
  • Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy - Lynley Dodd
  • Alien's love underpants - Clare Freedman
  • Supermarket Zoo - Caryl Hard and Ed Eaves
  • Mr Brown can moo, can you? - Dr Seuss
  • Lark in the Ark - Peter Bently and Lynne Chapman
  • Meg & Mog - Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski
  • Oh Dear - Rod Cambell

Silent Sunday

Friday, 11 October 2013

In pursuit of the peacock

One of the things on the pre-baby bucket list was to get out and about as much as I possibly could with E. She treated me to a bit of a lie in this morning, allowing me a cup of tea in silence after D left for work... Bliss... So I treated her to a slightly damp (OK, it ended up pouring with rain, we were pretty soaked if truth be told) treat out to Kirby Hall to search for conkers. I was more excited than her about this, obviously. 

We gave up our National Trust membership in favour of English Heritage membership at the end of the summer for two reasons. Firstly, we're lucky to have a lot of EH nearby, and less NT. Secondly, more EH properties are "ruins" and therefore there are no expensive vases to be pulled off tables and broken by overexcited toddlers. Kirby Hall is undoutably my favourite locally, because of it's versitility. When it's dry there are gardens to explore and grounds to run around in. What remains of the house makes for a great game of hide and seek with nooks and crannies to nosey around in even when it's raining and there are always some super confident peacocks to pursue, if you're 18 months old and think they're oversized chickens. And, luckily for me us, there is an avenue linked with conker trees, for your conkering pleasure. And it's all free when you're a member. Fantastic.

So we threw on our crocheted hats for their debut trip out, warmest jumpers and wellies and set off. On arrival we were greeted by a peacock, who, it would seem was named Tyler. (Tyler is E's best friend at nursery, I think. She talks about him ALL THE TIME) So, after a slightly nervous chat with him, we started looking for autumnal treasure. It wasn't hard to find, the place was littered with them, but E was really curious and fascinated about what I assume is her first experience of conkers. She enjoyed picking some up that had already parted company with their little shells and popping them in a bag to take home. She disliked the really spiky shells, but we soon found some that were smoother that she was able to pop open to discover what was inside. The novelty however was certainly in how many she could find and put in the bag. While counting isn't quite on the cards for us yet, this would have been a fabulous opportunity to do so... The spiders at home are packing their bags as we speak.

By this point however it was pouring so we got inside to have a run around. Interestingly the only other visitors were also mums with their toddlers! There were lots of big windows to look out of and lots of stairs to climb (each one anticipated with readyyyyyyyyyyyy, steadyyyyyyyyy, gah!), so it by no means felt that we had had a wasted journey. Conker collecting had taken longer than I had anticipated due to the sheer number of them for the picking, so we were soon headed home for lunch. At least I thought we were heading home, but E had other ideas as we have to repeat the conker search on the way back too, this time with less concern about spiky shells and giving a couple a taste test. Needless to say we were pretty mucky by the time we were almost back at the car, and the rain was coming down in sheets. Nevertheless, E took it upon herself to chase 'Tyler' around the car park for several minutes in the rain before eventually choosing a snack over him. Thank goodness we had a welly bag and some wet wipes in the car! 

Before I had E, one of my biggest hang ups about doing the parent thing was having to go out in the rain, my hair going frizzy and getting filthy. I've always hated having dirty hands, even as a child not much older than E, and I can't STAND it when the back of your trousers gets soaked though. Its another of those things that I've had to embrace, especially now she is bigger and soaking wet with frizzy hair and soil all over hands and face is the name and the game... But what I've realised is that she doesn't care if my hair looks a state or if my mascara has run down my face, and she doesn't feel like she's being judged for eating stones or conkers while sitting in a pile of damp leaves. She's having a great time and some of the best memories are made this way. We can go home, dry off, and put our pj bottoms on after the fun has been had, and she benefits far more from exploring outside than going to softplay again because the weather's a bit miserable. Even if my jeans are damp, she's loving spending the time with me, and I am loving the time with her... This is what childhood is all about right?

It's funny because now I look back at the last 18 months and there have been some awesome parenting moments... I miss that squishy little new born, and am excited about doing that bit again soon... But some of my best parenting moments have been days like today, and I'm so looking forward to E being able to take her little brother and sister back in two autumns time and for her to start teaching them what it's all about too.

And anyway, I totally rock frizzy hair. Fact.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

18 weeks.

I cannot get over how quickly this pregnancy business is flying. I'm very nearly half way, and I only blinked. I've got a tap dancer on board who seems to be awake a lot of the time and a bump that I'm pretty sure you can't miss, yet it seems to have gone unnoticed by many of my colleagues. Maybe I have always been rounder than I thought.

Bump is starting to feel tight and a bit itchy so it's time to get moisturising religiously. If the stretch marks do what they did last time, it'll be just before baby arrives that they suddenly pop... Better be safe than sorry. I'm giving Cussons Mum & Me a whirl this time, having loved their stretch mark fader (which works a treat on C-section scars too!)... And it smells lush. And I have an irrational love of pump bottles. Time to get out more.

So exciting news this week is that I have a date for No. 2's arrival! We're keeping it a secret, but it's a smidge early and I'm due 22 weeks today, so you can probably start working it out. Very exciting, but we have SO much to do before then. We're swapping bedrooms around as the kids will share once No. 2 is sleeping through and it currently looks like a dumping ground. It will be vastly improved when all our university stuff (!) and a lots of the books that we don't use all that often get boxed up in the loft. Their room is going to be grey and rainbow - it looks SO much better than it sounds I promise - and my attention has turned to thinking about what blanket design I'm going to crochet. 
In other news, all of E's Christmas presents, along with presents for most of the significant children in our lives, God son and daughters and the like, are purchased. I'm thinking about toddler Christmas crafts (potato printing wrapping paper anyone?) and scratching my head about what to get D... 

I like to claim I'm organised. This post has made me realise that I'm probably not quite as organised as I thought. Time to make another list. 

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